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Category Archives: E-Commerce

Most Online ‘Terms of Service’ Are Incomprehensible to Adults, Study Finds

Motherboard – Reading the terms and conditions of online consumer contracts requires, on average, more than 14 years of education. Two law professors analyzed the sign-in terms and conditions of 500 popular US websites, including Google and Facebook, and found that more than 99 percent of them were “unreadable,” far exceeding the level most American adults read at, but are still enforced. According to a new paper published on SSRN (Social Science Research Network), the average readability level of the agreements reviewed by the researchers was comparable to articles in academic journals. “While consumers are legally expected or presumed to read their contracts, businesses are not required to write readable ones. This asymmetry—and its potential consequences—puzzled us,” wrote co-author Samuel Becher, a law professor at Victoria University of Wellington, in an email to Motherboard. We’ve all been there, signing up for a new digital service such as Amazon or Uber and being asked to tick the box saying that we agree to the terms of service, or ToS. These agreements typically include clauses on intellectual property, prohibited use, and termination, among many others. Most of us accept the terms without bothering to read the fine print. But with these relatively new types of contracts, known as sign-in-wrap agreements, there is a danger in clicking “agree” without reading or understanding them—they’re regularly enforced…”

Left to Their Own Devices, Pricing Algorithms Resort to Collusion

Popular Mechanics: “When you’re browsing online, who sets the prices? An algorithm, most likely. A study from 2015 showed that a third of all items on Amazon had prices set by an algorithm, and chances are that percentage has only risen. A new study shows how easy it would be for price-setting algorithms to learn… Continue Reading

Consumer privacy concerns as Amazon buys Eero net routers

Consumer Reports: “Amazon’s agreement to buy the wireless router manufacturer Eero could make it easier for homeowners to manage a wide array of wireless devices, like smart thermostats and video doorbells, according to analysts and Consumer Reports’ in-house experts. But some of them expressed concern over how often high-profile startups get bought by the tech… Continue Reading

Why data, not privacy, is the real danger

NBCNews: “While it’s creepy to imagine companies are listening in to your conversations, it’s perhaps more creepy that they can predict what you’re talking about without actually listening…First, understand that privacy and data are separate things. Your privacy — your first and last name, your Social Security number, your online credentials — is the unit… Continue Reading

Shoshana Zuboff on the Age of Surveillance Capitalism

The Intercept: “…An unavoidable takeaway of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” is, essentially, that everything is even worse than you thought. Even if you’ve followed the news items and historical trends that gird Zuboff’s analysis, her telling takes what look like privacy overreaches and data blunders, and recasts them as the intentional movements of a… Continue Reading

Building habit not pageview matters most for keeping subscribers

Poynter: “As online advertising lags, many local news organizations are shifting their strategy to focus on reader-based revenue models, especially digital subscriptions, as a path to financial sustainability and greater community service. That pivot is redefining the goals for many news outlets. Rather than chasing viral “clicks” to boost ad revenue, they are trying to… Continue Reading

Want to Stop Fake News? Pay for the Real Thing

The New York Times – “Facebook and Google have been brutal to the news business. But this primarily reflects a failure of imagination. The tech giants are the world’s best distribution platforms and could be an answer for journalism instead of a grave threat. As readers have shifted to digital sources, the two companies have… Continue Reading

Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism

Los Angeles Review of Books – Nicholas Carr’s review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power By Shoshana Zuboff To the Googles and Facebooks of the world, we are neither the customer nor the product. We are the source of what Silicon Valley… Continue Reading

FAA looks to ease drone flight rules

FCW.com: “The Federal Aviation Administration will give commercial drones more freedom to operate over people and grant longer flight times under proposed new rules. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the proposals at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Jan. 14. The initiatives include a draft rule proposal to allow drones to fly at night… Continue Reading

Pew Report – Facebook Algorithms and Personal Data

“About half of Facebook users say they are not comfortable when they see how the platform categorizes them, and 27% maintain the site’s classifications do not accurately represent them. Most commercial sites, from social media platforms to news outlets to online retailers, collect a wide variety of data about their users’ behaviors. Platforms use this… Continue Reading

Once-revolutionary smartphone is losing its power to amaze and maybe its singular hold on our lives

WSJ [paywall] The Big Hangup: Why the Future Is Not Just Your Phone The once-revolutionary smartphone is losing its power to amaze—and maybe its singular hold on our live: “Steve Jobs took to a stage a dozen years ago this week to introduce a revolutionary new product to the world: the first Apple iPhone. That… Continue Reading

Fakespot determines the trustworthiness of reviews using artificial intelligence

“Growing suspicious of online reviews? So were we. Fakespot provides consumers with a new way of filtering product reviews to find out what real users are saying about the products you want to buy. Our proprietary technology analyzes millions of product reviews, looking for suspicious patterns and incentivized reviews. We then weed out the reviews… Continue Reading